10 Places I've Never Been: Nonna's

10 Places I've Never Been

I’ve spent 10 weeks of my summer exploring 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And now it’s time for the Mystery location. A location, recommended by our readers and chosen by our Facebook fans. This mystery stop is Nonna’s Restaurant at The Homestead Resort.

Nonna's restaurant at Homestead Resort image

It’s been a few years since I have spent any time at The Homestead Resort. So when my husband and I arrived for dinner we weren’t quite sure where we were headed. I remember the Inn lies at the back of the property with beautiful views of the water, so we drove in that direction. The roads meander through tall pine woods with beautiful condos tucked into the hills. We found the Inn and the Beach Club at the end of the road, but no Nonna’s. So we retraced our path toward the entrance. A few wrong turns provided a reminder of how large The Homestead property is, and how much they have to offer. We passed Stony Brook Lodge with it’s breathtaking views and Camp Firefly where they teach the Orvis Fly Fishing. Finally we turned past the Reception Center and found The Village, and Nonna’s.

 

Nonna's at The Homestead imageWe planned to arrive when they opened the doors for dinner at 6pm so I would have a chance to talk with Jamie Jewel, Vice President of Sales & Marketing to learn a bit about The Homestead Resort and the history of Nonna’s. The staff greeted us at the door and welcomed us in for a quick tour.

 

Nonna’s is located in a section called the Village, which you may recognize as the entrance to the Mountain Flowers Par-3 golf course, and in the winter, their ski resort. The Village is home to several shops, lodging and other dining options for The Homestead guests including Beppi’s and Cavanaugh’s. There’s a play area for the kids and decks overlooking Fiddler’s Pond in the back.

 

Nonna's porch room imageNonna's porch view

Inside Nonna’s the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Since The Homestead caters to guests traveling as couples as well as families, they’ve gone out of their way to make both groups comfortable. The Porch dining room offers larger tables, banquettes and dining overlooking the pond. The Tavern room includes a bar in back, smaller tables and fireside dining. This room is for adults only. There are a few tables on the deck accessed by the bartender so guests can enjoy a drink outside.

 

Our tour included a visit to the Loft, a special room above Nonna’s that’s available when large groups would like to dine together, such as a family reunion or corporate meeting. There’s even a kitchenette in the back for future cooking classes. But the loft isn’t open for regular dining hours.

 

Nonna's tavern imageThe reason I chose to write about 10 Places I’ve Never Been is to showcase some of the amazing shops, restaurants and businesses that we ‘locals’ forget about, or drive right by. When we returned to the Tavern room I spoke with Jamie about what makes The Homestead Resort a place locals should consider visiting.

 

The Homestead Resort has begun to recognize the importance of welcoming the locals onto the property to see what’s available. In an effort to reach out to the surrounding communities on Labor Day The Homestead held a community block party for 300 people, inviting residents of Glen Lake, Empire, Lime Lake as well as resort guests. Despite the cold they enjoyed hot dogs and popcorn, sales in the shops, facepainting for the kids and trips via golf cart to the top of the mountain.

 

The Homestead Resort is a vacation destination with amenities any visitor or local would enjoy — some of which you may not even know about. For instance, did you know The Homestead purchased the King’s Challenge course and gave it a complete make-over? So much so, that under their new name, Manitou Passage, this Arnold Palmer course won Best New Course in 2010 from Golfweek magazine. In the winter the ski hills are open to the public. And they just opened a day-spa on property. Of course, the reason I’m here is Nonna’s. A fine italian restaurant hidden in the pines of northern Michigan.

 

 

As we were chatting the server arrived and introduced the menu and wine list. The wine list is quite large, with many options available by the glass. And they had some cocktails that sounded fantastic including a pomegranite martini. I like to support the local Michigan wineries and chose one of few on their list, a Black Star Farms semi-dry riesling. My husband opted for an Italian beer, Moretti.

Nonna's steak pizzaiolla

 

Our drinks arrived, along with fresh bread, olives and roasted garlic in a basket. Moments later, the chef sent out a special appetizer to whet the appetite: Steak Pizzaiolla. It’s a classic homestyle Italian dish that you just don’t see often on menus. Small bites of beef tenderloin in a savory tomato demi glaze served with thin brushetta. A nice warm treat. Along with the dish came a promise that the chef would come out and chat with us.

 

Nonna's chef John Piombo

Our Facebook fans warned us we would love Chef John. Jamie said, "wait until you met Chef John," so as you can imagine I was anxious to finally talk with Chef John. And moments later, out he came.

 

Chef John Piombo is not a Michigan native, but his new midwestern digs seem to suit him. With two Italian parents John is fluent in both languages and spent some time in Italy which explains his passion for food and flavor. But I think it’s his personality that attracts new fans to the restaurant, and keeps the staff happy and entertained.

Nonna's menu image

 

Each night the staff gathers for family dinner, a chef’s choice meal that could be off the menu or off-the-wall depending on what he feels like cooking. The 4:30pm meal offers a time for the staff to taste new dishes, sit down together and prepare for the evening’s service. "We don’t open the doors until 6pm. Not 5:50pm, not 5:59pm. That give us time together and time to prepare."

 

While many chefs in the area focus on "local" Chef John says, "I’m all about relationships." He works with independent farmers who will come to his doorstep and is building relationships with some of the smaller boutique wineries in the area, like Circa, one of his favorites. It seems he’s full of funny stories about trips to meet with the local merchants.

 

"Ok, just one more story and I’ll let you go," he teased, as he shared a humorous tale of showing up unannounced at the rabbit ranch and getting a glimpse of something we probably don’t want to think about before we eat. And another story about an order of beef from a Kaleva farmer who arrived with one filet, one strip steak, one rack of ribs — not exactly what chef expected when he placed an order for "one beef."

 

Shortly after Chef returned to the kitchen the appetizers arrived. Since we weren’t expecting the chef’s selection we ordered a couple dishes to share: crabcakes and a mozzarella & heirloom tomato insulate.

 

Nonna's crabcakes image

Nonna's tomato salad

 

The crabcakes were packed with crabmeat, not fillers, seared in a pan and served on a creamy cucumber puree with a couple dashes of hot chili sauce. Very good. I can never pass up a mozzarella and tomato salad this time of year, so I was glad to see this one was made to perfection. Slices of homemade buffalo mozzarella a top four heirloom tomatoes dredged, but not drowned, in balsamic, olive oil and fresh basil. Both were easy to share and we each enjoyed them.

Nonna's frosty beer glass

 

I’m always impressed when a restaurant pays attention to the details. I loved that my husband’s beer came out with a frosty pilsner glass. The plate for the crabcakes was warm as they were, and the salad plate was chilled. Nothing is worse that getting a cold salad served on a fresh-from-the-scalding-dishwasher plate. So kudos on service.

 Nonna's rabbit entree image

 

Speaking of service, our server was incredibly knowledgeable about the dishes, often answering questions about ingredients in the sauces, or making recommendations on the entrees. My husband ended up ordering the Rabbit, and I the Veal Scallopini. They arrived with a side of polenta from the chef.

Nonna's veal scallopini image

 

I tasted the rabbit, as I’m not sure that I’ve ever had rabbit before. Sorry to sound cliche but it reminded me of chicken. It was cooked in a flavorful stewed tomato sauce with fresh herbs. The veal I ordered was full of mushrooms and a rich demi-glaze, but what I really noticed were the fresh herbs. I finally asked the server what they were. "Take a look in the garden on your way out. That is fresh mint sage which we grow out front."

Nonna's blackberry dessert

 

As we cleaned our plates, and finished our drinks, chef John sent out a simple but scrumptious dessert. He flambed huge fresh blackberries with Cake Vodka, and served them over vanilla ice cream. The warm berries exploded with sweetness and you couldn’t mistake the flavor of cupcakes that comes from this unusual vodka. A perfect ending to the meal.

Nonna's image

 

We wrapped up the evening agreeing Nonna’s is a restaurant we’d not only recommend, but plan to return to. The atmosphere in the Tavern was comfortable and welcoming, perfect for couples looking for a quiet night out. The menu offered mulitple selections we were anxious to try —some we admired as they passed by our table in route for another.

Nonna's chef tableNonna's sign

 

Before we left I stopped to photograph the Chef’s Table. This special seating for six just off the entrance offers a unique glimpse into Chef John’s creativity. Guests enjoy 8 or 14 course meals paired with wine. The small-plate courses are completely up to the chef. So if you’re looking for adventure, and you brought your appetite, the Chef’s Table at Nonna’s would be a fabulous treat.

 

Nonna’s is open for dinner year-round from 6-10pm except Tuesdays. Off-season hours are Thursday – Saturday. Chef John likes to change things up during the year so expect menu changes every 3-4 days. On Thursdays you may find a verbal trattoria-style menu or prix fixe meal option.

Nonna's dining room

 

Reservations are recommended since Nonna’s is a small restaurant, about 13 tables (not including the loft). There’s outdoor seating for the bar, and some limited patio dining available, "on the three days that it’s warm," Chef John jokes. I can see his south Florida roots haven’t completely adjusted to Michigan’s climate.

 

You can find Nonna’s inside The Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Visit their website at www.thehomesteadresort.com and find them on Facebook & Twitter. They’re still working on the wayfinding signage inside the resort, so to locate Nonna’s turn right on Wood Ridge Road, pass the Reception Center and you’ll come to the Village. Parking is on the right. For reservations call 231.334.5150. And, as with all my 10 Places I’ve Never Been locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler App. To download the free app click here.

Glen Arbor Sunset

 

It seems appropriate that the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series ended with a beautiful sunset over Glen Lake as witnessed from our drive home across the Narrows bridge in Glen Arbor. Every time I watch the sun sink into the lake, or behind a dune, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place—America’s Most Beautiful Place, in fact. But… that’s another story.

 

 

 

 

 

By |2011-09-12T11:56:34+00:00September 12th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been, Restaurants|1 Comment

10 Places I've Never Been: The Cherry Hut

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: The Cherry Hut

Cherry Hut entrance image

 

 

The Cherry Hut is somewhat of a local legend, especially in Benzie County. And the truth is, when I was a child I came to The Cherry Hut with my grandmother who grew up in Thompsonville and summered on Crystal Lake. So technically, it’s not a place I’ve never been. The reason it makes my list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been is because my husband — a Benzie Central graduate — has never been. That seems like an injustice that calls for correction. And this is the perfect opportunity.

Cherry Hut interior image

 

I stopped in early in the afternoon to chat with the owner, Andrew Case, and get a bit of The Cherry Hut history. It has been many years since I visited with my grandmother so I was surprised at how different it looked from what I rememebered. There’s a small souvenir shop offering jams, jellies, and cherry themed merchandise up front where diners search for something to take home to share. Behind the counter the owner was busy helping guests interested in purchasing a pie to go.

Cherry Hut chalkboard

 

After introducing myself and explaining the story behind my 10 Places I’ve Never Been series Andy offered to show me around and share his family’s recipe for restaurant success.

Cherry Hut painting image 

 

The Cherry Hut opened in 1922 as a roadside pie stand at the base of Warren road on the shores of Crystal Lake. There’s a large painting on the wall above the windows in the front room that illustrates their humble beginnings. In 1937 the Kraker family moved their pie stand into the town of Beulah on US-31, where it remains. At that time The Cherry Hut offered only outdoor dining at umbrella-topped tables where guests could enjoy picnic-style fare with their cherry pie.

 

Over the years the size of the patio has become smaller and smaller as requests for indoor dining and air conditioning have become more prevalent. Now a few umbrella tables remain behind the white picket fence, but the majority of guests choose their 150-seat indoor restaurant.

Cherry Hut owners image

 

Leonard Case began working for the Krakers in 1946. His role as "Jam Boy" left him in charge of their growing product line, a role he fulfills to this day. Leonard bought The Cherry Hut in 1959 and it’s been a family business ever since. His son Andy now handles day-to-day operations, but Leonard is on-site everyday and still a vital part of the The Cherry Hut restaurant.

 

Cherry Hut tables imageThere were a few things that I noticed the moment I walked into the restaurant, and the one that really caught my eye was how clean, neat and organized it looked. Every empty table was perfectly set with Cherry Hut placemats, silverware and napkins. The floors were immaculate, chairs pushed in, neat as a pin. So it came as no surprise that attention to detail is something The Cherry Hut strives for in every way.

 

The Cherry Hut places guest service at the top of their priorities. Their staff is trained in the proper and traditional forms of service. Women are served first, the silverware is replaced with each dish, and the tables are properly set. "It’s the little things that add up to make the difference," Andy said. The customers appreciate the details too. Including the fresh flowers and cherry handsoap in the the bathrooms.

 

After chatting with Andy in the afternoon, I returned later that evening with my family for dinner. I was anxious to try some of the dishes that had been suggested by our Traverse Traveler fans on Facebook and Twitter including the Cherry-Chicken Salad and the Cherry-ade.

Cherry Hut image

 

 

 

My five-year-old loved the giant smily-faced logo that greets each guest on their placesetting. In fact, his name is Cherry Jerry the Smiling Faced Pie Boy. And he’s just as old as the restaurant.

Cherry Hut cherry chicken salad

 

Cherry-Chicken Salad is what I ordered. According to Andy Case, he can’t say for certain, but he believes The Cherry Hut to be the originator of Cherry-Chicken Salad as it’s been on the menu here longer than anywhere else. As an entree it arrived with two huge slices of cantaloupe a pineapple garnish and a moist homemade cherry muffin on the side.

Cherry Hut burger image

 

My husband ordered the Plevalean burger and side of fries. Plevalean is also a cherry-product, made by the Pleva family in Cedar. The Cherry Hut is one of few restaurants that serve Plevalean burgers as they have to make the trip up to Cedar in person to buy it. When topped with cheese, bacon and all the fixins you’re missing some of the healthy benefits of Plevalean. Still, my husband said it one of the best burgers he’s had.

 

The kids and I had to have their famous Cherry-ade. The secret to this popular drink is that it’s made from the juice of pie cherries. Mixed with water and lemon juice this pink drink tastes like cherry pie in a glass. Very sweet, but delicious.

Cherry Hut cherry-ade imageCherry Hut pie image

 

A trip to The Cherry Hut wouldn’t be complete without purchasing a cherry pie to-go. You might be surprised to know on an average summer Saturday they will sell 500 pies a day! During the week that drops to around 300 pies. Not too shabby. They’re small pies, maybe 8", but they sell for only $8.25. And you better come in person, because they do not ship their pies. But you can pick-up a frozen one if you’re headed on the road.

Cherry Hut pie slice image

 

We brought our pie home to enjoy. I remember only a few trips to The Cherry Hut with my grandmother. She always ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for dinner, and we took our pie to-go. A trip to The Cherry Hut has become a tradition for many families who visit Benzie County. In fact, that’s their slogan, "A Northern Michigan Tradition Since 1922."

 

Cherry Hut sign imageIf you haven’t been to The Cherry Hut I’d say it’s about time to check it out. Their prices are fair, portions are generous and the staff has been trained in excellence. We had fantastic service there. It’s non-smoking (as is every restaurant in Michigan) and alcohol free. The Cherry Hut is open seasonally from Mother’s Day through the third weekend in October.

 

Visit The Cherry Hut at 211 N Michigan Avenue in Beulah, Michigan (that’s on US-31 in case you were searching for street signs). You won’t need reservations, but if you need to call dial 231.882.4431. While they don’t sell pies online or ship them they do have a large mail order business for their jams and preserves, so visit their website at www.cherryhut.com. Stop by and say hi on Facebook too. As with all my 10 Places locations, The Cherry Hut will be listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

That makes 9 Places I’ve Never Been. If you’ve been following along this summer my 10th place is a Mystery. On September 6th I’ll announce that location, so stay tuned…

By |2011-09-05T11:13:01+00:00September 5th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Two Fish Gallery

10 Places I've Never Been

 

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Two Fish Gallery

Two Fish Gallery LelandTwo Fish Gallery entrance

 

One thing I’ve discovered while writing about 10 Places I’ve Never Been it’s that there are a lot more than ten! And coincidentally, many of them are places I have walked past dozens of times. Two Fish Gallery is one of those places.

 

I visit Leland quite often, walk along the wooden boardwalk, under the shade of that enormous tree, and explore Fishtown. But I hadn’t ventured into the store that lies in the shadow of that tree —until this summer.

Two Fish Gallery inside view

 

Two Fish Gallery is the type of shop visitors are searching for when they want to bring home a momento from their trip Up North. My first impression was that the buyers for this store go out of their way to find items that represent northern Michigan, and are a bit unique. It’s a challenge to choose artwork, gifts, cards and collectables that shoppers won’t see in the store around the corner. Owner Jennifer Collins has done a great job bringing something new into the retail mix.

 

To write a blog about a retail store means talking about the products they sell. So I’ve taking a ton of photos and thought I’d share some of the items that captured my attention. Let me be your guide on a virtual shopping tour through Two Fish Gallery.

Two Fish Gallery Bill Campbell potteryTwo Fish Gallery Bill Campbell pottery

 

When you walk in the door you can’t miss the large display of ceramics from artist Bill Campbell. He’s a Pennsylvania potter known for a very unique glazing technique. Two Fish Gallery has a great selection of his collectable yet functional art pottery in shades of blue, aqua, purple and brown.

Two Fish Gallery Solmate Socks

 

Another customer favorite are the Solmate Socks. AKA "The Sock Lady," this Vermont artist creates beautiful mismatched socks, which may be quite familiar as they’ve become collectable in their own right. The bright knits hang on the wall attached to a clothes line. Each pair of socks has a name which corresponds to the color-scheme. I love that she sells the kids socks in sets of 3, "A pair and a spare," and the Baby Sockinis are sold in sets of 5.

Two Fish Gallery wooden signs

 

All around the store, hanging near the ceiling, are these fabulous wooden signs painted with clever and humorous phrases. While this is certainly not the only store I’ve seen with wooden signs, I do love the choice of phrases Two Fish Gallery has selected. Some are clever, some tug at the heartstrings, and some just make you laugh out loud. The company Sawdust City offers thousands of options, so it’s up to the gallery owner to choose what she should sell. This gives you a glimpse into her personality and that of Two Fish Gallery’s customers.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery signs

The signs can also be customized. In store they carry several that talk about Leland, Fishing, Michigan and up north. But you can even have a one-of-a-kind sign made for your family, cottage or as a gift. My personal favorite: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will buy more fishing equipment than he can use in a lifetime." Sad, but true.

Two Fish Gallery jewelry

 Two Fish Gallery chart jewelry

Eventually my browsing lead me to the jewelry, as it often does. And there’s a lot of variety in the store to choose from. There are handmade crystal necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by a local artist, and friend of the Collins family, Suzanne Meyer. Her self-proclaimed "bead addiction" is a blessing for the rest of us who can appreciate the cherry-inspired necklaces, and simple braclets. I also liked the custom Chart Map jewelry which reveals a tiny section of a map under glass bubbles, strategically featuring the Leelanau Peninsula.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx rings

 

But, the artsy designer in me was drawn to the case of Staxx jewelry, a company I wasn’t familiar with until Jennifer explained. Staxx is a collectable line of customizable rings which are built by you. Two Fish Gallery has a big selection to choose from, so Jennifer hauled it all out for me.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx ringsTwo Fish Gallery Staxx rings

 

You start with a stainless steel ring with a post on top, choose your layers from colorful disks of glass, metal and molded shapes, then cap it with a topper. Each ring is as unique as the designer. The combinations are endless. So, as you can imagine, I stood there playing for quite a while before deciding on the ring I wanted. The price is determined by what you’ve selected, with layers ranging from $2-$10. Rings usually end up in the $30-$50 range.

 

While we played with the rings I had a chance to ask Jennifer how she ended up with a retail business in Leland. As it turns out she’s an Engineer by trade, who grew up in Iowa where the closest thing to a lake was man-made. But when her husband retired and moved here from Chicago in 1997 they decide to buy an existing business, Americana Collection. The only problem was, they didn’t know much about antiques. So in 2009 they decided to change the name of the store to Two Fish Gallery, and the inventory began to reflect a style which suited them and the town of Leland.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery halloweenTwo Fish Gallery Curly Girl


"We really try hard to find unique things. And we love to make people laugh." So Jennifer has filled the store with collections like Curly Girl, seasonal gifts from Woof & Poof and greeting card lines that will have customers standing there reading out loud to their friends, and laughing all the way to the register. Even the garden art is whimsical and unexpected.

Two Fish Gallery my purchase

 

As for me, I knew once I saw the rings that I had my purchase. It probably took 30-minutes of playing to make it. But that’s another nice thing about Jennifer and the staff at Two Fish Gallery…she didn’t mind playing right along with me!

Two Fish Gallery LelandLeland cottonwood tree

 

You can find Two Fish Gallery under the shade of a champion cottonwood tree, overlooking beautiful Fishtown. For those with a GPS, that’s 104 West River Street, Leland, Michigan 49654. They are open year-round, and feature seasonal gifts especially for Christmas. Call 231.256.9350 for more details or to place a special order. You can find them online at www.twofishleland.com and Find them on Facebook here. As with all my 10 Places locations, they are also listed under Shop in the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

 

Today is the last day to nominate a business for my 10th stop on the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. So visit us on the  Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!

 

And stay tuned next week, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  The Cherry Hut.

By |2011-08-26T11:13:50+00:00August 26th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Country Christmas

10 Places I've Never Been image

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Country Christmas

 Country Christmas exterior image

 

This is another one of those places that every local has driven past at one time or another. Located on the uphill side of highway M-72 as you’re headed out of Traverse City towards Empire is Country Christmas. This cozy cottage-like place, painted red with green gingerbread trim is the perfect spot for a crafty couple like Bill and Lee Smith.

Country Christmas interior view 

 

It was Tuesday when I walked in, completely unannounced and was met with a smile by Tracy Smith. Standing behind a desk, and in front of a beautiful antique hotel key box, was his father, Bill. I was immediately impressed when the first question they had for me was, "Have you been in to visit us before, or is this your first time?"

 

I introduced myself and explained the concept for the 10 Places I’ve Never Been article series. With a nod of recognition, they quickly responded, "You’re going to want to talk to Lee." Around the corner she came.

 Country Christmas interior image

 

The story of Country Christmas always goes back to Lee, and her love of homemade holiday crafts. For years Lee sold her creative Christmas decorations at arts and crafts fairs. She recycled and repurposed every piece of material, paper or holiday-themed gift that she came across. Pipe-cleaners, old spools, candy boxes, corks, cards, bits of fabric and ribbon all became materials for Lee’s creations. She saw potential in everything, and nothing was wasted.

 

In 1983 the antique store on these grounds came up for sale, just as their dreams of living on the bay were dashed by the housing market. A move to the country was in store, and their house suddenly sold to make it possible. That’s when Lee, Bill and their three sons went into the Holiday business.

Country Christmas spool angel imageCountry Christmas cork ornament image

Country Christmas driftwood santas imageCountry Christmas handmade ornament image

Upon taking a tour to learn more about their products, Bill really came to life. As he guided me through the three main rooms he was so proud to show off each of his wife’s creative designs. We saw angels made with spools and tulle, simple clusters of corks loved by wine-tasting tourists, Santas painted on driftwood and little boxes designed from bits and pieces she collects. Each ornament brought a smile to his eye and a nod towards Lee.

Country Christmas manger

 

But the store isn’t just filled with Lee’s handiwork. Over the years they’ve built relationships with artists all over the Midwest. In fact I began noticing red tags hanging on nearly half their merchandise — a sign that the piece is handcrafted and locally made. They were approached by one of the first Bronners employees who asked if the Smiths might like sell his handmade mangers. Since then Bill has begun decorating some with stones he finds along Lake Michigan.

Country Christmas santa ornamentsCountry Christmas bird ornament

Country Christmas antique tinsCountry Christmas chalkware image

They also have handcarved Santas, bells on leather straps from Ohio, and some very colorful handpainted ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. If handmade Christmas ornaments are what you’re shopping for, this is the place to go.

 

Another unique item Lee began to make and sell is called Chalkware. They started collecting antique tin folding chocolate molds. Lee fills the molds with a chalky plaster and when set, she paints the figurine. Each piece is handmade and unique.

Country Christmas Buyer's Choice carrolersCountry Christmas baby blocks 

 

There are many well-known collections available at Country Christmas. They carry Buyer’s Choice Carrolers, Santas, nativities, German glass ornaments and vintage pieces. Trees throughout the store show off collections of ornaments that will suit any holiday decor. I even found some lime green trees and modern fused glass pieces that fit the theme in my house.

 

If you’re looking for a personalized gift, you’ll love the solid cherry baby blocks which are laser-cut and personalized with your choice of designs on each side. With Lee’s steady hand she will paint a personal message or family name on nearly any item you wish.

Country Christmas Waldo-ClauseCountry Christmas Waldo-Clause

 

One of my favorite features is actually something the Smith’s started doing to keep children busy while shopping with their parents. Pasted on the front door before you even enter the store, is a sign announcing that Waldo-Clause is hiding inside. The children spend their time searching all the nooks and crannys of the shop looking for Waldo-Clause. Once he is discovered and reported the kids get to select a small prize. But perhaps the bigger reward is the priviledge of hiding Waldo-Clause for the next eager hunter.

Country Christmas purchase

 

After wandering the store, in search of my purchase, I was immediately drawn to some whimsical lime green trees I could use for display. I sheepishly admitted, the holiday I’m really addicted to is Halloween. Sure enough I found a couple candy corn glass ornaments that will look great with my Halloween decorations. So I had my purchase. Now all I needed was a photo of the happy couple who started this quaint little store on the side of the road.

Country Christmas owners

 

"I always told the kids, ‘Don’t buy me something, make me something’," said Lee. And it’s that philosophy that keeps her creating every day.

 

With our crafty backgrounds, and ability to see creative opportunities everywhere we look, I knew Lee and I were kindred spirits. It was my pleasure to meet such a sweet couple. And I’m sure I’ll be back to the Country Christmas store.

Country Christmas interiorCountry Christmas entry

 

Country Christmas is open from Memorial Day to Christmas Eve, Monday – Saturday from 10-5pm, and 7 days a week starting on October 1st. You can find them at 9005 M-72 West, Traverse City, Michigan 49684. To place a special order call 231.946.6294. Visit their website at www.countrychristmastc.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, I’ll be adding them to the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, you have one more week to tell me about it on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Two Fish Gallery.

 

By |2011-08-19T09:01:39+00:00August 19th, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe

10 Places I've Never Been image

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market

 

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 22 Vines & Wines enterance

I arrived at 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market in the middle of lunch hour. All five of the booths were full and the owner, Rich Van Steenis was scurrying about filling water, taking orders and delivering hot food from the kitchen. Wouldn’t you know they were short staffed and Rich was the only waiter.

 

As I waited for a friend to join me I was able to scan the tables and soak up the amazing smells wafting from the little kitchen in back. A Thai chicken pizza was delivered to guests at the table across from me, carried in on a wooden plank. The smell was fantastic.

Hillside Plaza signage image

 

22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market is located right on M-22 just south of Suttons Bay. In fact, it’s next door to another one of my 10 Places: Chateau de Leelanau. The Hilltop complex, which also houses Gallery 22 and the Leelanau Chamber, is owned by the Van Steenis family. They purchased the property, a former dairy farm, in 1977 and converted it to retail space for Rich’s mother. When she decided to retire in 2008 it was time for further renovations.

 

What once was a milking room, is now a 10-year dream come true for Rich’s wife Salve. But I’ll get to that later. First you need to see what Salve can do.

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 

My friend arrived promptly and we examined the menu with interest. I changed my mind a dozen times because everything sounded so good. The handmade thin-crust pizzas looked fabulous, but were too big for our appetites. Besides I hoped to try more than one dish. So we decided to share an appetizer of Thai rolls and each ordered tacos for lunch.

22 Vines & Wines Thai rolls

 

The chef recommended a split order of spring rolls and summer rolls. The spring rolls are made from ground round, cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts, rolled im a rice wrapper and lightly sauteed (not fried). The summer rolls are fresh and cool. Steamed shrimp and crisp veggies are rolled up with rice noodles in a rice wrapper and served cold. They provided two sauces for dipping—a spicy soy and spicy peanut. Both rolls were excellent…even though we paired them with the wrong sauces!

22 Vines & Wines shrimp tacos

 

For lunch I chose the shrimp tacos, since they were grilled. My friend opted for the fried fish tacos. And we were both happy with our decisions. They were served two to a plate, topped with lettuce, cheese, thai cream sauce and fresh salsa. I paired mine with a jasmine ice tea. Lunch was filling, but at the same time it felt light. Which, was a great way to finish a meal. Instead of feeling stuffed and regretful I was looking forward to a trip back. And I was dying to see more of Salve’s thai dishes. Lucky for me, there were a few more coming out of the kitchen.

22 Vines & Wines Tum Yum Soup

 

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was headed to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe I had some suggestions from followers, which included the Tum Yum Soup. Now that I’ve seen it, I know I’ll be trying that next time. This traditional Thai dish is one Salve modeled after the Bangkok street vendors who would make the soup on a cart while you wait. At 22 Vines & Wines Cafe they offer a seafood version with shrimp, scallops and mussels, a tofu version, or chicken, shown here. You can order it mild, medium or spicy.

22 Vines & Wines food image22 Vines & Wine food image

Here are a couple other dishes to inspire your taste buds. Bet you’re feeling hungry now.

22 Vines & Wines Market 22 Vines & Wines wine image

 

There’s more to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe…it’s the Market. So after lunch I did a little exploring. The restaurant lies on the corner at the front end of the building. When you walk in seating stretches along each side of the room in front of you, with a bar at the back. On the other side of the wall lies the Market. The cafe opened in the fall of 2010, but the market just opened this May. It appears to be a work in progress. But the focus is clearly on locally made products, including beer, wine and spirits, as well as the unique Asian food staples that they feature in the cafe.

22 Vines & Wines market22 Vines & Wines market

 

There’s an ice cream counter in the front of the market that sells Moomer’s ice cream, and in the back, near the kitchen you’ll find a small bakery display with truffles from Chocolate Exotica, and homemade cookies. The shelves are only partially filled but what I saw represented many of my favorite local food stuffs. Naturally Nutty nut butters and spreads, Stone House Bread, Sleeping Bear Farms honey and other Leelanau county products lined the shelves.

22 Vines & Wines owners

 

After my wandering I sat down with the owner to find out how they decided to open a Thai restaurant in Suttons Bay.

 

Rich and Salve Van Steenis met in her cafe in Manilla, Philippines while Rich was visiting the island on for a diving trip. Salve, who came from a family of rice farmers, broke away from the tradition to follow her dreams in the kitchen. She has been cooking for 25 years. It took 10 years to convince Rich to open a restaurant here. Since he retired in 2008, he decided it was time for Salve to have her wish. They’ve taken nine trips to Thailand, thus her passion for the flavors of that region.

22 Vines & Wines dining22 Vines & Wine dining

 

Since I am a strong supporter of Michigan wine, I had to ask about their name, and the connection they have to the Michigan wine region. The location of the property, along M-22, combined with the fact that they are surrounded by Leelanau county wineries, lead to a restaurant name that would attract a wine-tasting crowd. And yet, I discovered an anomaly. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed to discover that 22 Vines & Wines Cafe does not pour a house Michigan wine. In fact, it’s from California.

 

According to Rich they opted not to pour a house wine from Michigan because they didn’t want to take away from the tasting experiences at the wineries around them. "They represent their products really well. We don’t want to compete with that," he added. What they do offer, which may calm the Michigan wine fans out there, is a large selection of Michigan wines by the bottle at retail prices that match the wineries. You can purchase a bottle in the market next door, and for a $5 cork fee you can enjoy that wine with your dinner.

 

I did notice several local Michigan craft beers on tap, including Right Brain Brewery, North Peak and Bells. They have many others available in the market coolers as well as distilled spirits from Grand Traverse Distillery and Black Star Farms.

22 Vines & Wines chalkboard

 

At the end of the day I was really impressed with the dishes that came from Salve’s kitchen. They’ve created a restaurant that was supposed to appeal to a wine tasting crowd of tourists and instead impressed the locals so much they have many regulars who come several times a week. I know I’ll be back again to try that Tum Yum Soup…and maybe a coconut macaroon for dessert. They looked so tempting.

 

On your next trip wine tasting along the Leelanau Peninsula, think about stopping by 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market. You can find them at 5046 SW Bay Shore Drive, Suttons Bay. They offer dine in, or carry out so give them a call at 231.271.2221. And you can even check out their website at www.22-vines.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, I’ll be adding them to the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Country Christmas.

 

 

By |2011-08-11T22:17:29+00:00August 11th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Rock Shop

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Rock Shop

Rockshop street view image 

 

I know you’ve seen it. If you’ve driven along US 31 between Interlochen and Honor you’ve driven past it. The question is, have you ever been inside the C & M Rock Shop? I hadn’t until this week.

 

That’s not to say I haven’t noticed their little enterprise on the side of the road. In fact, I’ve always wondered, "Does anybody shop there?" Turns out, more than a few people shop there. That’s why it’s been open for more than forty years!

Rock Shop image

 

When I walked in to the shop on Tuesday and asked for Bruce Mueller, the owner, I was met with some reservation. Why was I writting an article? Was it going to cost anything? But I assured them it was my own curiosity that put their Rock Shop on my list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been, and I’d be happy to share their story because I believe it just might interest some other folks out there who have passed by for years. With that, I was welcomed into Bruce & Shirley’s little slice of geologic capitalism.

 

Bruce Mueller lead an interesting life before he settled down to sell rocks. He was in the Korean War, where his actions and responsibilities were considered top secret. So secret he’s not even sure what they were. After the war he used the GI bill to get a college degree in geology, a subject that’s been of interest to him since the age of eight. He proceeded to get a masters degree and taught high school in Rockford, Illinois for 35 years.

Rock Shop cases imageRock Shop polished stones image

 

I could’t resist the obvious question: why a rock shop, on the side of the road in Northern Michigan? "I started this so I’d have something to do when I retired," said Bruce.

 

Bruce and Shirley found a 1904 barn that had collapsed because the roofline was so steep no one would go up to reshingle it. They worked with the basement structure, adding a simple roof to create the shop, even cut a doorway into the stone silo so it could be used as an office. In 1967 they opened the C & M Rock Shop for business. They sold $260 in rocks that year. "I’d rather not say how many we sell now," they smiled. But let’s just say Shirley’s family isn’t laughing at them any more.

Rock Shop meteorite imageRock Shop agate image

 

The Rock Shop sells polished and unpolished stones from around the world. There are several display cases showcasing fossils that date back before the age of dinosaurs. Trilobites, cephalopods, ammonites and even metorites line the shelves. You can sort through gemostones like peridot or Michigan greenstone, or pick up a beautifully polished Lake Superior agate.

Rockshop nautilus imageRockshop chain coral imageRockshop Michigan greenstone image

 

It may have been years since Bruce taught school, but he hasn’t lost his passion for geology or his desire to share his knowledge. We chatted for nearly an hour about the geologic origin of Michigan, the make-up of our local rockbed, and stories behind the fossils found throughout the store. He also shared many secrets of the popular Petoskey stone that beach combers search for with passion and nostalgia. It’s probably the Petoskey stone that has kept the Rock Shop in business for so many years.

Rock Shop Petoskey stones

Rock shop petoskey stones

Inside the Rock Shop there are Petoskey stones everywhere. A long table showcases polished stones of all sized. They sell some Petoskey stone jewelry as well. Outside shoppers can sort through piles of Petoskeys that have been dug up from the rockbed. These raw stones bear a much closer resemblance to the coral from which they were formed, since they excavated directly from the ground rather than tumbled in the waves which naturally smooth out their edges.

Rockshop Puddingstone image

 

Outside, visitors browse through the larger stones, including one of Bruce’s favorites: the Pudding Stone. This conglomerate rock is a mixture of several other stones held together by quartz. These stones would have formed over 2 billion years ago, transported here by glaciers.

 

With all the stones on site I wondered if Bruce was an avid rock hound or if he purchased the stones he sells. It turns out he’s willing to buy, if the timing is right. In fact, just that morning a man stopped by with 500 lbs. of Petoskeys—an unwanted inheritance from a lifelong collector. So Bruce bought them. "I especially try to buy from children," he added, paying $0.50 to $1.00 depending on the size and quality of the stone.

Rock shop Bruce Mueller

 

Bruce is a great story-teller, and seeks to share the unexpected or unique facts about his subject. Here’s one of his Did You Know stories, that I just had to share.

If you want to buy a gravestone that will last:

  • Choose a marble stone and it will last 100 years, but the effects of acid rain will destroy it;
  • Choose a granite headstone and water erosion will begin the degrade the inscription after 500 years;
  • But if you choose a Quartz headstone, in 7 billion years, when the sun expands into a red giant and vaporizes the earth you will STILL be able to read what it says on the tombstone…assuming there will be anyone left to read it!

 

I asked Bruce the question I was dying to have answered: how does a business that sells rocks stay in business for so long?

"We picked, by sheer accident, the right location," he answered. Simple as that.

Rockshop book image

 

Before I left I picked up a copy of one of Bruce’s books, The Complete Guide to Petoskey Stones, which he kindly autographed for me. After the third stop on my tour I discovered that Bruce is co-Author of the series of Rock Picker’s Guides with Kevin Gallagher of Korner Gem. It’s a small world.

 

Generations of families have been stopping by this tiny Rock Shop on the side of the road in Benzie County for nearly 45 years. If you haven’t made a point to pull the car over and check it out, I encourage you to do so. Especially if you have any young rock hounds in the backseat just itching to get their hands on a petoskey, or see some amazing fossils.

 

C & M Rock Shop is located along US 31 between Interlochen & Honor. 13236 Honor Hwy, Beulah, MI 49617 to be precise. They are open seasonally. For more information reach them by phone at 231.325.2309. They also own a jewelry showroom in Rockton, IL. Check out their website here:  www.gemshoponline.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  22 Vines & Wines.

 

By |2011-08-04T21:31:31+00:00August 4th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Woodland Creek Furniture

10 Places I've Never Been image

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Woodland Creek Furniture

Woodland Creek location image

 

If you’re thinking, "eh, Up North woodsy furniture…not my thing," don’t stop reading this post. At least until you scroll through the photos. Because if there’s one thing I learned visiting Woodland Creek Furniture, they’re more than just a rustic furniture store. But if that’s what you’re into, then boy are you in for a treat.

 

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been to Traverse City in the last seven years, you’ve driven past Woodland Creek Furniture. Probably at about 55mph. Woodland Creek Furniture is located on US-31 North, across from beautiful East Grand Traverse Bay, on a large piece of property that used to be Traverse Bay Woolen. Despite the size of the complex, and fantastic roadside visibility, owner Rob Evina still fields calls regularly from locals who found him on the web instead of driving down the street.

Woodland Creek interior view

 

My first impression of Woodland Creek was one of total shock—at the size of their business, and the variety of goods they sell. Their primary business is hardwood furniture, the majority of which has a very natural, organic style. Clearly if you are decorating a home, cottage or business with a woodland theme this place should be on your list to visit. But there’s also a large collection of home decor, floral arrangements, and gift items that will interest shoppers looking for something you can’t get at a box-store in suburbia.

Woodland Creek bath imageWoodland Creek salt crystals image

 

They have one of the largest selections of Michigan or Up North themed bathroom accessories that I’ve ever seen in one store. I love the lighthouse collection shown here. But if you’re into hunting, or birding or fishing they’ve got you covered. And not just in bathroom decor. From books to lamps, children’s gifts and greeting cards, there’s more here than I can possibly show. Where else can you find a lamp made from Salt Crystals? These were seriously cool. And apparently they’ll ionize your room too!

Woodland Creek bear ornamentWoodland Creek hunt ornamentWoodland Creek ski ornament

 

Since I happen to have a die-hard fisherman at home, I’m always on the lookout for fishing-themed Christmas ornaments. Now I know where to look. There are trees scattered throughout the store each decorated in a different Up North theme. If you’re into hunting, fishing, skiing & snowboarding, camping or cottage life, they have a tree for that. I knew I’d find something I didn’t have.

 Woodland Creek furniture imageWoodland Creek bed image

 

But the basis for Woodland Creek Furniture is, well, furniture. And for the details on the history of Woodland Creek Furniture I had to talk to Ron Evina, the owner.

 

It was seven years ago that Woodland Creek took over the old Traverse Bay Woolen space and created a furniture store unlike any other across the Nation. Their pride in handmade furniture stems from Rob’s own love of unique woods and quality craftsmanship. What started out as a small handmade furniture business lead to 28,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated to their passion. And with customers flocking from all over the nation, it’s safe to say they’ve made a name for themselves in a very competitive business.

Woodland Creek furniture image

 

One of the secrets to Woodland Creek’s success is customization. Any piece you see in their showroom can be customized to suit your space, color palette, style or building dimensions. Fall in love with a dining table for 4 but your feeding a family of 8? No problem. Love the rustic bed on the showroom floor, but you’re more into cottage style? Pick a color and they’ll have it painted. "I love saying, Yes, Yes, Yes," said Rob, "especially when customers are so used to hearing No." Rob Evina is also proud of the fact that 30-40% of the furniture is made right here in MIchigan, much of it in Kalkaska just a few short miles away.

Woodland Creek furniture image

 

So most of my pictures paint a pretty woodsy theme, right? And I promised something beyond that. Well all you have to do is cross the parking lot to Woodland Creek’s new addition…UR Houzz. Say it out loud, and you’ll get it. If you like the idea of handmade furniture, but your style is classic or contemporary, UR Houzz is worth a look. You’ll find more colorful fabrics, cleaner lines and still a twist of the unexpected. They also expand your living space into the outdoors with a large collection of patio furniture, firepits and custom made pergolas.

Woodland Creek furnitureWoodland Creek imageWoodland Creek furniture image

Woodland Creek Furniture image

 

Located alongside the TART Trail, Woodland Creek has made an effort to provide a diversion for travelers young and old. There’s a giant playscape for the kids, a waterscape with a small bridge that leads directly to their ice cream shop. A unique partnership with Moomer’s Ice Cream allows guests to get premium ice cream without crossing town to visit the farm.

Woodland Creek Rob Evina imageWoodland Creek purchase

 

With a showroom this large, sitting alongside one of the busiest highways in Traverse City, it might surprise you to know Woodland Creek Furniture is more popular in New York, and LA than it is with locals. Their web presence and attendance at furniture shows has attracted the attention of interior designers, corporations and customers from across the country all looking for the quality they can produce—at a price that beats a Manhattan showroom anytime.

 

Alas my tour was complete. I couldn’t resist picking up a couple stocking stuffers for my husband…shhhh, don’t tell. I’m sure I’ll be back before Christmas, but I figured, no time like the present.

 

Woodland Creek Furniture is located at 4290 US 31 North in Traverse City, across from East Grand Traverse Bay. For more information reach them by phone at 231.938.8025 or visit them online at woodlandcreekfurniture.com. You can also find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  The Rock Shop.

By |2011-07-28T07:51:23+00:00July 28th, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Korner Gem

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Korner Gem

Korner Gem sign image

Ever since I received an unusual Fordite necklace from my husband I’ve wanted to stop in and meet the jeweler at Korner Gem. But I’d never found the time or opportunity.

 

Then I began my mission to explore 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And I realized…we don’t find time, we make it.

Brewery Creek entrance imageBrewery Creek sign

 

Korner Gem is located in a small plaza called Brewery Creek, across from the marina on the West side of M-22 as you head towards Suttons Bay. The best way to spot the entrance is to look for the big blue building that looks like a lighthouse (but houses a Subway). With a giant blue diamond sign on the white building it’s easy to find once you know where it is. This is the type of place you’ll be sharing with family and friends once you’ve seen what’s inside.

As soon as I opened the door I was greeted by the owner/designer, Kevin Gauthier. Although we’d never met, the jewelers glasses perched atop his head were a dead giveaway. Before I explained my mission I spent a few minutes absorbing the surroundings.

Korner Gem interior view imageKorner Gem mosaic image

 

Most shoppers would go straight for the jewelry cases to see what treasures await just behind the glass. But I couldn’t help looking at my feet. Just inside the front door, and sprawling across the tile floor was a beautiful stone mosaic river. The cut stone slices shone with a high polish and flowed across the floor in a rainbow of colors. But the story behind it was even more beautiful.

 

Kevin has honed his skills in gemology and rock collecting for decades as of the oldest—albiet youngest—members of the Grand Traverse Rock & Mineral Club. He’s met many friends along the way, some of whom have passed on. The stones in his river were collected and purchased from fellow rock hounds and vendors, only two of whom had the chance to see his creation before passing. The river remains a beautiful tribute to a lifelong journery collecting precious fossils and friends.

 

There are over 600 slabs of stone in Kevin’s river, represending some 70 varieties of rock from across the world. Having designed and laid a tile mosaic in my own home I have a special appreciation for the time, toil and back pain associated with a project like this! It’s worth a trip just to see it.

Korner Gem necklace display

The first impression that struck me in Korner Gem was the atmosphere. Perhaps the stone river carried me away, but there’s something very relaxed and comfortable about this store. I think it’s the rocks. They’re everywhere. From agates and petoskeys, to fossils and geodes exploding with amethyst.

 

Then Kevin said something that explained what I was feeling, "The jewelry profession supports the rock habit."

Korner Gem amethyst geodeKorner Gem display

 

Indeed, Kevin has created a fabulous jewelry collection by focusing on what he loves: rock collecting. Since the age of nine when he floated along the waters of Lake Leelanau on a surfboard wearing a dive mask and scanning the shallows for stone, Kevin has had a rock habit. At fourteen he started is entrepreneurial adventure selling polished petoskey stones at the Holiday Inn gift shop. Years later, he’s turned that childhood pastime into a 12-year-old jewelry business. After two moves, Korner Gem has found a home in Brewery Creek.

Korner Gem charms in hand

 

His work ranges from elegant to whimsical. Display cases throughout the store showcase custom necklaces, pendants, rings and charms. But what strikes me the most is Korner Gem’s use of Michigan beach stones in creative settings that reflect the area. Petoskey stones, Leland blue and even Fordite (or Paint, as he calls it) have been fashioned into creative charms in familiar shapes.

Korner Gem charms image

 

First known for his signature design, the ‘Beachcomber’ —a flip-flop sandal crafted from beach stones and sterling silver—Korner Gem now creates several charm designs with a Michigan theme. From the mitten state (upper and lower peninsulas) to sailboats and lighthouses, shells, frogs and turtles, each design is crafted from sterling silver and local stones, and polished to a beautiful sheen. What a perfect souvenir from a trip Up North.

What’s even more exciting to a rock scavenger like myself…is Kevin’s interest in creating custom designs. I love the idea of bringing in stones I’ve picked up along the shore and having them made into a charm, a ring or even a beaded watch band. And Kevin is more than willing to create a custom shape for his customers. If you’re into birding, how about a chickadee? Or maybe a fish ring for the angler in your life.

Korner Gem stone beadsKorner Gem necklace 

 

Some of the most popular items at Korner Gem are the Michigan stone beads designed to fit today’s charm bracelets like Pandora, Camille and Troll. Imagine creating a memory bracelet from stones you collected along the shore at grandma’s cottage? Or how about a necklace featuring the petoskey that took all afternoon to discover? I’m always on the look-out for unique gifts and this is a great place to find them.

I’ve spent many hours searching for petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan, and I happen to have a pretty good eye. So I brought some of my stones in with me to see what Kevin could do. After looking at the beads I fell in love with his idea for a four-sided bead featuring four different stones. He’ll use my Petoskey, a Leland Blue, a Favosite fossil (which I didn’t know that I had) and Fordite—because I’m a huge fan.

 Korner Gem rock collecting books

Kevin identified my stones in no time at all, which should come as no surprise since he’s written three books on the subject. Rock Picker’s Guides to Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. What a great cottage coffee table read, or gift for a child who needs something to do at the beach besides chasing seagulls and fighting with their siblings.

 

Korner Gem iron ore samples

Kevin also took the time to share some rock facts with me. I asked about the creation of Leland Blue and Frankfort Green, since these are "misfits" found only in this region. He pulled out samples of iron ore and the glass-like by-product that formed in the smelting process. This "slag" was deposited in Lake Michigan from several processing operations in the late 1800s. The source of the color (blue vs. green) is debatable, but most likely determined by the process used at each location.

Korner Gem Kevin Gauthier imageKorner Gem lapis image

I also learned that rocks smell. Didn’t know that, did you? There’s something called a stink stone that smells like rotten eggs when you break it open. When grinding the stones for shaping and polishing some produce a pleasant smell, like turquoise. Petoskey stones have an oily smell, and the aroma from a ground piece of amber is like pine. The grinding process is a dusty one, but sometimes it too yields an interesting result. Lapis creates blue dust, where most stones are white.

 

Korner Gem my purchase imageKorner Gem book and stones image

Part of the magic at Korner Gem is the knowledge you receive when talking with Kevin and the staff. Their passion for jewelry making, and rock collecting is infectious. I left my stones there for a make-over, and picked up the Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide to share with my kids. Hopefully our next trip to the beach will yield many more colorful memories to treasure.

 

In the back of the book there’s a line I just love, "We don’t own rocks, we only borrow them…so enjoy them while you are their keepers."

 

The next time you’re cruising through your hometown on auto-pilot, thinking about the grocery list and searching for the dry cleaning ticket you thought was stuck to the bottom of your cup holder, put that thought on hold. Look around you, at the OPEN signs on doorways your pass every day. Find one that calls to you and take a mini detour. I’d highly recommend a stop at Korner Gem, in Traverse City.

 

Korner Gem is located just off M-22 in Traverse City, on the West side of town. 13031 S. Fisherman Cove, Traverse City to be exact. For more information reach them by phone at 231.929.9175 or visit them online at www.KornerGem.com. They are not yet on Facebook, but you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Woodland Creek Furniture.

By |2011-07-21T09:40:10+00:00July 21st, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Chateau de Leelanau

10 Places I've Never Been image

 

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Chateau de Leelanau Winery

Chateau de Leelanau winery image

Chateau de Leelanau Winery

When it comes to wine, I prefer to drink local. Since I live in the heart of northern Michigan wine country and work with several wineries I’ve had the opportunity to visit many tasting rooms. But until this summer I’d never been to Chateau de Leelanau. And it’s not because it’s off the beaten path. In fact, Chateau de Leelanau is on one of the most well traversed highways in the area, M-22, at the beginning of the Leelanau Wine Trail. And yet so many people pass them by. I wanted to find out why.

Matt Gregory Chateau de Leelanau image

Matt Gregory, vintner, greeter and face of Chateau de Leelanau, was in the tasting room on the fateful day I walked through the door and sprang the news of my 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. Much like his wine industry cohorts he generously offered his time and some wine samples to walk me through the history of Chateau de Leelanau.

 

I’d like to say you can’t miss their tasting room, located on M-22 next to E. Hilltop Road, but the truth is so many people do. And that’s one thing the new owners are determined to change.

Chateau de Leelanau tasting room

Those who remember the former tasting space will not recognize the building since Matt and his family moved in. They’ve cleared out the dusty tchotchkes, expanded the tasting bar and reinvented their brand with a simple clean logo. The goal: to rebuild the reputation of a winery born in the new millenium, and reborn in 2010.

 

While Matt and his family are new to the wine business, they are certainly not new to agriculture. In fact, that’s how they ended up with a winery in the first place. The tasting room for Chateau de Leelanau sits on M-22 just south of Suttons Bay. But the vineyard is several miles north — right next door to the Gregory family orchards, aka: Cherry Bay Orchards and Shoreline Fruit. When the winery and vineyards went up for sale, it seemed like a good time to make some wine.

Chateau de Leelanau wine imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

I arrived in the winery for my tasting the same day Matt submitted his wines to the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition for the first time. Since they’re a new winery, with less than a dozen wines for 2010, he sent them all. But the Gregory family didn’t join the wine ranks for the medals.

Chateau de Leelanau glass imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

"We want to create palatte pleasing wines for the customers, that represent the agricultural background of Leelanau County," Matt explained. The industry folks often preach dry, dry, dry but nearly 90% of Chateau de Leelanau’s customers want sweet, sweet, sweet. The challenge is to produce wines that bring a smile to all their lips.

 Chateau de Leelanau labels imageChateau de Leelanau cider imageChateau de Leelanau wine image

After trying the wines, I was quite surprised by my favorites. Typically I prefer sweet whites, and while I like their Select Harvest, and signature Bianca, that’s not what I left with. I fell for a bottle of red, Solem Farm Red to be exact. It’s the perfect backyard BBQ, easy-to-drink, red wine. My second surprise was their Hard Apple Cider. The unusual combination of Sweetango™, Northern Spy and Golden Delicious apples, grown on the family farm, makes for a fabulous hard cider.

 

Little known fact: the Cherry Wine and Hard Apple Cider are Chateau de Leelanau’s best sellers and neither were in their sights when they set out to make wine. This year Chateau de Leelanau will produce 1000 cases of Cherry wine, compared to a very limited supply of their signature Bianca, at just over 40 cases.

Chateau de Leelanau wine imageChateau de Leelanau wine corralChateau de Leelanau walkup window
 

If there’s one thing that stands out about Matt and the approach at Chateau de Leelanau it’s their laid-back style.

"We’re farmers, man! We’re not a snooty joint,"

Matt explained as he showed off one of their latest additions. They’ve fenced in a ‘wine corral’ just outside the building, complete with a window for walk-up service. This summer guests will be able to relax and enjoy a taste or a glass while they soak up the sun with friends and family. And after hearing about weekend specials like Cherry Sangria (see their recipe on our

Summer Sippers: Cocktails from Northern Michigan

post) and the infamous cherry wine snowcone…I’m definitely coming back this summer!

Chateau de Leelanau wines imageChateau de Leelanau open sign

Before I left I had to get some food and wine pairings from the winemaker. So next time you’re debating a menu, give these a try:

>> Cherry Wine paired with pulled pork tacos

>> Bianca with bacon-wrapped scallops

>> Solem Farm Red & anything off the backyard BBQ

Vintner’s Picks: 2010 Cab Franc and 2010 Pinot Noir

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the "family five" that make up the Chateau de Leelanau crew.

Don Gregory: The patriarch of Cherry Bay Orchards, one of the state’s largest cherry growers and production facilities

Matt Gregory: Nephew to Don, my host with the most, face of Chateau de Leelanau, and vintner

Roger Veliquette: The "food science guy," Roger crossed over from the Great Lakes Packing Company and brings years of experience to the table to tackle day-to-day aspects of winemaking

Andrew Gregory: Brother to Matt, who work for the marketing arm of the family cherry business, Shoreline Fruit

Mark Miezeo: Cousin to Andrew and Matt, and farm manager

Chateau de Leelanau truck image

Chateau de Leelanau is located on M-22 south of Sutton’s Bay at the intersection of E. Hilltop Road, that’s 5048 S. West Bayshore Dr, Suttons Bay for those using a GPS. For more information reach them by phone at 231.271.8888 or visit them online at chateaudeleelanau.com. Show them some love by becoming a fan of their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @CDLwinery You can also find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Korner Gem.

By |2011-07-13T21:37:15+00:00July 13th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Hodge Podge Lodge

10 Places I've Never Been composite

 

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

 


The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. First on my list: The Hodge Podge Lodge

 Hodge Podge Lodge exterior

The Hodge Podge Lodge

I’ve browsed the stores in Beulah for years, but I’d never noticed the sign for the Hodge Podge Lodge. Technically that’s because they’ve only been open just over a year. But that’s beside the point. What matters is how easy it is to stroll the same path without really paying attention to what’s new.

 

Truth be told, I first heard about the Hodge Podge Lodge when they signed up for a listing on the Traverse Traveler app. But it was their clever name, and the photo of a wooden lampshade that drew me to Beulah to check it out.

 

Located on main street in downtown Beulah, the Hodge Podge Lodge is somewhat hidden behind the elevated ramp enterance that leads visitors past a welcoming window display. An ever changing array of antiques, clothing and lamps line the large windows — an attempt to lure in visitors with a peek at the treasures that await inside.

 Hodge Podge Lodge interior

Store manager Jennifer Kolinske greets all guests from behind the front counter, offering assistance if any is needed. I introduced myself and explained my mission to visit 10 Places I’ve Never Been, and admitted that the Hodge Podge Lodge was on that list. Her enthusiasm for the idea and the prospect of being included let me know I’d made a great choice for my first stop. So I got to work exploring the store and learning more about their history.

Hodge Podge Lodge imageHodge Podge Lodge vault 

If you’ve never noticed the Hodge Podge Lodge in Beulah, but consider yourself a local, it may be because the store is just over a year old. But the building is not. In fact, the store is housed in the old Central State Bank building, circa 1912. Whether you recognize the exterior or not, you can’t miss the giant vault on the main floor that serves as an office.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

The name of the business is no random assignment. The collection of goods for sale clearly falls into the category of Hodge Podge, with an ecclectic mix of antiques, vintage collectibles, new and resale clothing, arts and crafts. They added the word Lodge to incorporate the store’s primary artisisan focus: homemade lamps with a uniquely rustic lodge look. The lamps are a story on their own.

 Hodge Podge Lodge lampHodge Podge Lodge lamp

Store owner, Larry Revnell began making these unique lamps and selling them at arts & crafts fairs. Each lampshade is created from a single piece of wood, with no glue or veneer. Larry, and his brother Joe, have developed a technique for turning white pine logs into lampshades. The nature of the material is shown in every piece, including knot holes, and often revealing a raw and irregular bark edge and a soft golden glow through the thin wood. The brothers search for a base that suits each shade, thus creating one-of-a-kind lamps every time.

 

Most lamp bases are a collection of found materials, from antiques to driftwood, to towers built of beach stones. Some are quite rustic, but they’ve expanded to include classic shaply lamps for a more contemporary setting. The lamps are now exclusively sold at the Hodge Podge Lodge in downtown Beulah. So you’ll have to stop in to see their unique elegance.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

The decision to open a store in downtown Beulah also reflects the creativity of the rest of Larry’s family. There are adorable crocheted hats and prayer purses made by his sister Teresa, and his daughter Chris is responsible for their popular tie-dye collection that lines the walls at the back of the store.

 Hodge Podge Lodge

The Hodge Podge Lodge is one of those places where you have to look at everything, because the perfect item might be hidden in one of the nooks and crannies, next to a bowl of pipes or behind a vintage lunchbox. And I love the way Jennifer has mixed and matched all of the displays. There’s vintage glassware and tablesettings on an antique table, with a colorful handmade teddy bear waiting to dine. From hippie art, to handmade jewelry made from bottle caps and fabric scraps, you never know what’s around the corner.

 Hodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge Lodge

I found my perfect purchase on the floor. In a small collection of resale shoes I discovered an adorable pair of heels. Lo and behold they were just my size. And best of all, the resale price:  $10. How could I resist.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

So I left with my $10 shoes, and plans to come back whenever I’m in Beulah. Because in a place like the Hodge Podge Lodge, the inventory changes almost daily. And I know the next time I stop by I’ll fall in love with something else.

 

The Hodge Podge Lodge is located in downtown Beulah a 254 S Benzie Blvd. For more information reach them by phone at 231.882.7010 or visit them online at hodgepodgelodgemi.com. Show them some love by becoming a fan of their new Facebook page. You can also find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

 

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going. And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Chateau de Leelanau Winery.

By |2011-07-07T13:22:09+00:00July 7th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Northern Michigan Places I've Never Been

Places I've Never Been graphic

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been.

 

Close your eyes and think about this for a moment. Wait…that makes reading rather difficult. Scratch that.

Better yet imagine, if you will, your morning commute. If you’re lucky enough to call northern Michigan home that drive probably takes you through quaint shopping districts, or perhaps a bayside cruise past restaurants, marinas and resorts. When you live in a tourist town, like Traverse City, you’re surrounded by unique destinations. But just like those beautiful bay views, you seldom stop the car to appreciate them.

When I’m running displays for Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas my route takes me across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county every month, canvassing the same highways area travelers flock to for a taste of Northern Michigan. Along these drives I pass dozens of storefronts I’ve never been in. And that got me thinking, why not? What is so difficult about taking 15 minutes out of my trip to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully find something I like. That’s when I decided to pick 10 new places and pay them a visit.
 

 

What’s the big deal about choosing some place new?

One of the best parts of being a tourist is exploring uncharted territory. You never know what you’re going to discover. When you’re on vacation, especially in a place you’ve never been, every site you see, every food you taste, every door unopened is the beginning of a new adventure. If you look at your own community from the eyes of a visitor you’ll see a whole new world.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing shameful about having a favorite restaurant, or shopping at the same grocery store because it’s convenient. Every business needs ‘regulars,’ and that’s what the locals often are. But new customers are the key to business growth.

 

Did you know, in 2010 the Michigan tourism industry generated $17.2 billion— that’s a 14% increase from 2009. And, for the first time, out-of-state visitors spent more than Michigan residents on travel*.

Regions like Northern Michigan depend on those tourism dollars. And why do you think that is? Because we count on area visitors to do what we aren’t doing enough of: going out to eat, shopping at local stores and staying in area hotels. So I say, become a tourist in your hometown. And see what that does for Michigan’s economic recovery.
 

In honor of following my own advice I’m sharing my list of 10 New Places right here on the Mealtickets blog. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store:

Hodge Podge Lodge graphic1.  Hodge Podge Lodge
– After seeing their listing in the Traverse Traveler app, and walking past the store in downtown Beulah, I had to check it out. And I must say, I’m loving my new $10 shoes! Click here to read more…

 

 

Chateau de Leelanau graphic2.  Chateau de Leelanau – Located on M-22 near Suttons Bay, this winery has new owners and some great wines…I’ll be back this summer for their cherry sangria, I can tell you that. Click here to read more…

 

 

 

Korner Gem graphic3.  Korner Gem – I’ve been dying to explore this hidden treasure just off M-22 on the west side of Traverse City, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to show off the new jewelry they’re making—from my own beach stones. Click here to read more…

 

 

Woodland Creek graphic4.  Woodland Creek Furniture – My friends from Virginia stop here every time they drive through Traverse City but I have never made a point to go in. Until now. It’s huge, and it’s amazing! Click here to read more…

 

Rock Shop graphic5.  The Rock Shop – If you’ve driven the corridor between Interlochen and Honor on US-31 you’ve passed it a million times. And so have I. But not this summer. I’m dying to find out how a place that sells rocks has been in business for so long! Click here to read more…

 

 

22 Vines and Wines graphic6.  22 Vines & Wines – I’ve heard nothing but good things about what’s coming from the kitchen in this tiny restaurant, with a Philippine chef, that lies along on the road to Suttons Bay. Click here to read more…

 

 

Country Christmas graphic7.  Country Christmas – Every local has passed this quaint cottage at 55 mph and yet I wonder how many have slowed down enough to read the sign. Looks like I’m gonna celebrate Christmas in July this year. Click here to read more…

 

Two Fish Gallery graphic8.  Two Fish Gallery – There’s a huge tree near the corner of River & Main Street in Leland as you look down the boardwalk toward Fishtown. It casts a shadow on this lovely gallery. But the treasures inside are worth a visit. Click here to read more…

 

The Cherry Hut graphic9. The Cherry Hut – Can you believe my husband graduated from Benzie Central, but he’s never been to this Beulah landmark? We’re going to check this one out together. Click here to read more…

 

 

 

Mystery graphic10. Mystery Visit – I think I’m going to see what our Facebook & Twitter fans suggest, and base my 10th stop on their recommendations. Click here to reveal the Mystery…
 

 

 

You can keep up with my discoveries here on Mealtickets.com, and make suggestions of your own on Facebook and Twitter. And, as an added bonus, I’m going to make sure these new places get listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app. That way you can check them out too!
 

Why don’t you join me? Become a tourist in your hometown with these three simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Take a moment and think about the places you drive past every week, but have never been in.
  • Get Set:  Pick ten, and make a list. The list is critical. There’s something about the simple act of writing it down that will help make you accountable.
  • Go:  You have 99 days of summer to explore your own backyard. Make it memorable.

 

Share your 10 Places with us!

We want to hear about the adventures in your hometown. I’ve set up a Discussion Board on the Traverse Traveler Facebook Page. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered. Happy backyard travels everyone!

 

Resources:
*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars